4. unresolved

the soul's migration

the soul’s migration: december, 2007

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I dream about him. I wake up in the middle of the night and he is on my mind. I think I hear the side door open and for a second I think it’s him, going outside in the middle of the night like he used to. I hear the garage door swing in the wind, I hear footsteps coming down the stairs, I see a shadow slide past the back bedroom window. At 3am, it’s always him, not the wind, not the trees, not the radiator making noise. My half awake mind thinks he is still alive and this is still 18 months ago or three years ago and I panic for a second, thinking that everything has been a vivid dream. Then I’m fully awake and aware of the present and my mind does that thinkthinkthink thing, where I can’t turn it off and I wish for a sleep mode, where I can just push a button and my brain doesn’t freight train through a thousand things like daughtergoingtocollege - carypaymentdue - heartpalpitations - whatifyoudidn’tgivehimyourcarthatday…

And it begins. Every time you push one thing further down, your subconscious is like springy foam, soaking up what you don’t want, but pushing something else back up at you in the process, like it can only hold so much down at one time. At 3am, everything is a problem, everything seems insurmountable, everything is a crisis.

I wish I didn’t think of him so much, but I suppose he will be there like a ghost until I can exorcise all the guilt and unresolved feelings that are there. I can’t imagine what my sister goes through every night. If I’m laying there awake reliving the experience of seeing him dead, I wonder what she is seeing? That image will never leave me. The sounds will never leave me. Her screaming, the baby crying, running up the stairs, meeting her halfway as she collapses on the middle step, crying. Tell her to stay there, run up the rest of the stairs with her behind me and….I remember his hand. So white. Stiff looking and white. My eyes won’t run over the rest of his body just yet. Then the baby cries again from the other room and I’m jolted and I look. His legs, still in jeans at 5am, hanging over the end of the bed. He has his jacket on. Where was he going? Oh, I know where. I know. His face is serene. His arms at his side. He’s sleeping. He’s dead. My sister is feeling his body, looking for warmth, feeling for a heartbeat, a pulse, all the while sobbing, knowing it’s no use and I just pull her back as she starts screaming again, pull her away from her dead husband and I grab the baby out of his crib, run downstairs, blather something to Todd, who is already throwing his pants on and stumbling toward the stairs. About 30 seconds have passed since I flew out of bed.

Then there’s a blur of ambulances and the coroner and policemen, people in my house, on my couch, in my kitchen. His mother, his aunt, my parents, my other sister. Gawking neighbors peering out their windows at 6am on a Saturday, neighbors with genuine concern being told nothing more than, he’s dead. Waiting for them to take him away. Holding the baby, shaking my head to clear it, consoling my son, being grateful the daughter slept out the night before. Waiting for everyone to leave and then the blank look in everyone’s eyes. The “what now” look. My sister being carted off to my parent’s house. The wondering. The what ifs.

What if he stayed in rehab another week or so? What if I didn’t give him my car to go to a meeting when he got home because I don’t think he really went to a meeting. What if I tried harder? What more could we have done? Did we give him too many chances? Was she too easy on his mistakes? What if I had been tougher on him those last, turbulent months instead of always forgiving, always wanting to believe that he meant it, this would be the last time, he’d get better?

The wake, the funeral, the tears, the sorrow for my sister and the baby. Days fly by, months come and go, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. Each one brings pain for her, each one brings tears and cries of why. Each day is like a hole for her and she crawls into it, shutting out the light, shutting out everything. Eventually, she crawls out, but the hole is always there and sometimes I see her inching toward it. I pull her from it the way I pulled her from his body.

The summer comes and the yard is wrecked then revitalized and there’s flowers and life and a swingset for the baby and I stand in the backyard and hold Todd’s hand and admire the beauty and I know sometimes she is looking from upstairs and I wonder, mostly this is what I wonder at 3am, does she resent my happiness? Why do I feel guilty for being in love, for enjoying the yard, for enjoying life and being happy after so many years of being miserable and empty? Is Todd’s success at overcoming addiction a slap to her, an acknowledgment that her husband failed where other people didn’t? Is our relationship, played out right in front of her, like a ghost of what could have been, showing her what she’s missed out on because my brother in law couldn’t save himself from himself, couldn’t bring himself to live for the sake of his child and his wife?

I vacillate between guilt and anger, between sadness and complacency. Sometimes I forget that he’s dead, sometimes I forget the burden he was while he was alive. Sometimes I think about the person that was deep inside him, the kind, gentle, loving, generous person with a quick smile and quirky sense of humor and a forgiving, calm nature. Where did that person go? What more could we have done to keep him from drowning within himself? Why would he let all that go? And why would he do that in his own home, with his wife and baby right there? Why didn’t he go off himself in a back alley where people who loved him wouldn’t find him stiff and breathless and out of life?

When I hear the noise at 3am and I think he’s out there, even if it’s his ghost, I want to go out there and kick his ass and scream at him. A few deep breaths and I want to apologize to him for not caring that last time, for giving up, even though I took him back and reached my hand out to him a hundred times before. I want to say I’m sorry for laying in bed that Friday night wondering if this weekend would be the end and would I feel relieved and if I did, so what, it would probably be a relief to my sister in the long run. I’m sorry but I’m not. I’m angry but I’m not. I’m guilty but I’m not.

3 Comments so far

  1. Toni on October 28th, 2008

    What amazing writing; powerful & honest, and it has such natural flow, and of course the photo fits beautifully. Your new sites are making me think a lot about where to take my personal writing/photography.

    I hesitate to comment on the story here because it feels too personal, too raw & close, and I don’t want to be one of those fumbling commenters trying to sound all wise when I wasn’t even fucking there, but I wanted to say I’m sorry for the pain and loss and guilt.

  2. Margi on October 28th, 2008

    You’re alive. She’s alive.

    One second at a time if you have to. Suicide - whether it’s one night or a lifetime of crawling into a bottle - is IMHO the ultimate act of selfishness. In that time - whether it’s short or drawn out - the people who survive you are not even considered. It makes me really, really angry.

    I hope you find some peace.

  3. badkitty_ on December 6th, 2008

    This was so sad and so moving. I’m sorry you had to go through this. I really have no words of any value or comfort. It’s very sad and no one should have to go through anything like this.

    I hope one day both you and your sister find peace.

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